Harman Kardon Classic review: Harman Kardon Classic

The headphones fold flat and come with a nice carrying case. Sarah Tew/CNET

The headphones don't fold up, but they do fold flat -- and by flat, I mean really flat. While the included carrying case is fairly large in terms of height and width, since the headphones fold so flat there isn't much depth to the package. It stows away nicely in a laptop bag or backpack, or potentially your suitcase.

The headphones have a detachable cable, which is nice, though you do have to detach that cable to get the headphones to fit properly in the case. Luckily, the headphones' designers have been thoughtful enough to include an interior pocket in the case for storing that cable.

The detachable cable with its Apple-friendly in-line remote and microphone. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance
Overall, I really liked the sound of these headphones. I tend to like well-balanced, "accurate" headphones, and the Classic fits that profile, with detailed sound and bass that's plump and pleasant but not overreaching. For closed-back headphones, the sound feels open and not canned at all. There's a bit of restraint in the treble, so you're not going to get that edgier detail of "faster," more aggressive headphones that push the treble harder. I wouldn't call these laid-back, but they're fairly warm and I tried them out with a variety of music and came away feeling that they were quite versatile. That said, if you're someone who wants headphones that can deliver a more thumping bass, the Classic may not quite satisfy you.

Close-up of the square earcup. Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion
At $199.95, the Harman Kardon Classic headphones are fairly pricey. But when you combine their impressive fit and finish and sound quality, they actually seem fairly reasonably priced compared with the competition. I compared this model with the $199.99 Bowers & Wilkins P3 headphones, which I also like, and came away feeling that the Classics were better and offered slightly richer sound, measuring up well against the $300 B&W P5 model. I also put the Classic pair up against the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones, which are one of CNET's highest-rated over-the-ear models and a relative bargain at their $160 price. The ATH-M50s had the slight edge in sound quality (a little more bass, a little more detail), but the Classics have that built-in microphone and iaredesigned for both home and mobile use, whereas as "studio monitor" headphones, the ATH-M50s are more for home or office use.

For those considering Harman Kardon's step-up Bluetooth Wireless Over-Ear Headphones ($249.95), alas, I haven't tried them yet, but I'd venture to guess that the Classic earphones sound better. And despite my small quibbles about their comfort level, I have no problem recommending them.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Sound Output Mode stereo
  • Additional Features 2D folding mechanism
    Three-button remote
    Straight jack connection
    Passive noise cancellation
  • Type headphones
  • Headphones Form Factor on-ear